248-409-1900 dburke@mi-worklaw.com

By:  Bill Pilchak – 12/18/14

By now, most will have heard news reports that the Michigan Legislature has permitted a group of Satan-worshipers to erect a small display on the grounds of the state capitol, which the group has deemed a “Satanic Temple.”   Just like the Snake described in Genesis, the serpent in the display promises knowledge, while the devil lurks behind him.   John Truscott, a member of the Michigan State Capitol Commission said: “We are restricted by the Constitution and bound by the Constitution to recognize their First Amendment rights.” Thankfully, a nativity scene will also be displayed on the Capitol lawn during the Christmas season.

Those paying attention to the news will remember another item circulating last month about a group sending a Satanic coloring book to Orange County, Florida, education officials so that it might be distributed in the same fashion as Bibles. The coloring book shows children wearing satanic images, such as inverted pentagrams and goat’s heads on their T-shirts, and includes activities that teach children to draw inverted pentagrams. The boy featured in the coloring book is “Damian,” the name of the child in the 1976 Movie, the Omen, where a U.S. ambassador played by Gregory Peck, finds that the son he is raising is actually Satan’s child.

Now that religion has been largely forced underground at work, in government and in society, Satanists are flexing their muscle. Employers are probably wondering if and when this trend will reach their workplaces, and if they too will be forced to accommodate Satanism as a protected religion.

A great body of law on the subject of Satanism as religion already exists. Satanists in prison often assert their legal rights to practice their religion. Approximately 35 federal cases of that sort can be found. Unfortunately, Satanism is hard to distinguish from beneficial religions, especially since the Supreme Court has recognized non-mainstream religions and even privately-held ethical beliefs to be “religions” in conscientious objector cases.

Accordingly, most prison cases on the subject assume Satanism is a religion and decide the case on other grounds. Cases refuse to allow the Satanic Bible into prisons because it preaches hate and preying upon the weak and thus presents a safety problem. Hendrickson v. Caruso, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 117875 (WD MI, 2008) noted that the Satanic Bible teaches hate and authorizes the killing of human beings. The case says it teaches: “Hate your enemies with a whole heart…The only time a Satanist would perform a human sacrifice would be if it were to serve a two-fold purpose…Intense, calculated hatred and disdain should accompany this step of the [destruction of a human] ceremony…” (Bracketed material partly in original).

          Johnson v. Williams, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 148445 (DC Or., 2011) denied a copy of the Satanic Bible to a prisoner based on the prison’s argument that:

          The Satanic Bible … promotes behavior that is a threat to the safety and security of staff and inmates…A Satanist is advised by the satanic bible to perform any act according to his desire. If this fulfilled desire or act is challenged by authorities, then the Satanist is told…there should be no restraint on the part of the authorities. The Satanist is encouraged to follow personal temptation even if the fulfillment of that temptation conflicts with authorities. Furthermore, the Satanist is informed that the authorities are wrong and have no right to restrain the Satanist’s desire. This means it is sanctioned  for the Satanist to steal someone else’s property, take another person to fulfill personal lust, or destroy any person who has wronged the Satanist.”

Other courts have recognized that “much of the [Satanic Bible] advocates preying on the weak in any way possible for one’s own gratification…” Carpenter v. Wilkinson, 946 F. Supp. 522, 529 (N.D. Ohio 1996); McCorkle v. Johnson, 881 F.2d 993 (11th Cir. 1989) (“LaVey…declares that hatred of ones [sic] enemies is of utmost importance; revenge should be a top priority”); Winford v. Frank, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9907 (E.D. Wis., 2008) (“The Satanic Bible…preaches self-indulgence, self-gratification and vengeance . . . [and] … that believers should rebel against the laws of man and hate authority…”); Burton v. Frank, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9603 (W.D. Wis., 2004) (The Satanic Bible “advocates the murder of ‘totally obnoxious and deserving individuals,’ exaction of vengeance through violence, mutilation and murder of anyone a Satanist believes to be his enemy” and… “challenges its readers to rebel against the law of man and engage in symbolic acts of violence against one’s enemies”)

Employers do not have the same escape hatch as prison officials. If an employee makes it known that he/she is a Satanist, it is extremely doubtful that the employer can rely on a “safety” argument. I can safely predict this: When the followers of Satan identify themselves in the midst of a workforce of Christians and Jews who have been told of the evils of Satan, the snake, since Genesis was written, some kind of conflict will result. Expect a legal battle of Biblical proportions. I don’t know if I will be defending the employer who removes a Satanist from the workplace, but if I do, I will take some comfort in knowing that God will be on my side.